Hollywood Bowl History
If you’re anywhere in California, you must visit the Hollywood Bowl as you’re bound to catch one or more amazing performances on that grand stage. The thing about the Hollywood Bowl history is that it started more than 100 years ago, more specifically in 1919.
That is when the locals decided that this spot is perfectly suitable for artistic performances. Moreover, it didn’t start with silly meaningless acts; instead, it started with Shakespeare, so a solid start to be honest. View the current Hollywood Bowl schedule. Now, let’s get to know more about this arena and what it has presented over the years.
Idea and the Daisy Dell
The Hollywood Bowl started off as an idea for the locals and several foundations when the need for a comfortable, accessible space with good acoustics has risen due to high demand. That high demand was established when several schools and entities started performing and directing shows in a specific shaded picnic spot in Bolton Canyon known as the Daisy Dell.
This specific spot has witnessed countless performances and acts starting in 1916 all the way to the Hollywood Bowl’s official opening in 1922. These performances included Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar by the Theosophical Society, which involved 5000 play-actors, performers, dancers, gladiator, and so many more, in addition to the students of both Fairfax and Hollywood high schools.
Nevertheless, the performances certainly didn’t stop there as the Daisy Dell has witnessed the Light of Asia as well. This show is based on Edwin Arnold’s poem. Moreover, the Women’s World Peace concert also took place in the Daisy Dell on November 11th of the year 1921.
After all of this success without any actual work of construction taking place, the potential of the specific spot in Bolton Kenny, known as the Daisy Dell, has captured the attention of several facilities.
Yet, the first to secure the deal was the Theater Arts Alliance Inc. under the leadership of Christine Wetherill Stevenson, who managed to purchase 59 acres of land in Bolton Canyon for $47,500, and that was the price for the Hollywood Bowl.
She was so invested and interested in this project that she invested $21,000 from her own personal money in it. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and as a result of a conflict with the rest of the Theater Arts Alliance Inc., she had to take herself out of the equation. Fortunately, she was reimbursed for her investments afterward.
Logically, this great stage needed proper management from a group that would put the interest of the Hollywood Bowl above anything else.
Consequently, the Community Park and Art Association was founded on October 25th of the year 1920. This foundation was under the leadership of F.W Blanchard in addition to other individuals, such as the vice president C.E Toberman and the secretary Artie Mason Carter.
The Hollywood Bowl must have needed incredible funding in order to host all of these performances, which were only increasing in number as time passed.
So, before the grand official opening of the Hollywood Bowl in 1922, the Parks and Art Association took on so many shows from all genres; choral, Shakespeare, school shows, etc. All of these shows were primarily created by locals to entertain locals.
The Hollywood Bowl managed to have its official opening in 1922, right after the stage was completed, and don’t try to compare that stage with what we’ve got in front of us today.
You see, the 1922 stage was made out of simple wooden blanks, nothing fancy at all. Afterward, Bizet’s Carmen had an incredible show with viewers from all over California. The proceeds of this performance went towards purchasing the first 150 box seats, which were situated in front of the bench seats.
That way, the Hollywood Bowl started providing its viewers with more than just one option to attend their favorite performances. Later on, in 1924, the Park and Arts Association decided to feature a backdrop that took on the Greek style in terms of architecture.
In the year 1924, it was deemed the right thing to do for the Hollywood Bowl to be given to the county of Los Angeles. That way, the stage, memories, and art can be truly preserved for future generations to see from all around the world. The Hollywood Bowl will always belong to Los Angeles and not a particular entity by itself.
The shells of the Hollywood Bowl are undoubtedly its most characteristic feature. You can see it from anywhere in the world, on TV or your laptop, and you’ll know for sure that you’re watching the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, California.
Naturally, the shells you’re looking at right now weren’t built in 1922. The first backdrop for the Hollywood Bowl was only in 1924. Plus, even when the shells were constructed in later years, starting 1926, they’ve been exchanged on more than one occasion to improve acoustics and visualities simultaneously.
Let’s start with the year 1926 when a group known as the Allied Architects constructed the first shell of the Hollywood Bowl. Unfortunately, that project was a complete flop as it was deemed a failure in regards to both the visual aspect and the acoustic aspect. The shell didn’t reflect sound in a good way whatsoever. As a result, it had to be demolished.
The silver lining of the Allied Architects’ visit to the Hollywood Bowl was the creation of its permanent seating area. This marked the most significant evolution of the Hollywood Bowl seating chart that we can see today when we purchase our tickets. They’ve also managed to add a set of staircases that has only served to further enhance the ambiance of the amphitheater and showcase its balloon design to make it look bigger and more spacious.
Another construction that helped put the Hollywood Bowl higher and clearer on the map wasn’t done inside of its lands, rather outside of it. In 1926, the Pacific Electric Railway on Highland Avenue was completed. This road boosted the accessibility of the Hollywood Bowl quite a few notches so that you’ll find yourself at the theater enjoying an evening full of art without much effort.
Come 1927, Frank Lloyd Wright Junior decided to step in and build the second and third shells, which were chef’s kisses. They had a pyramidal shape to them, which didn’t go with the general aesthetic of the Hollywood Bowl. The thing is, their acoustics were top-notch. Still, they were taken down as they didn’t represent the soul of the Hollywood Bowl.
In 1928, Frank Lloyd Wright Junior tried again with a 120° curved wooden shell, which solved all of the problems we had seen before. The reason behind this shell’s success has to be the fact that it consists of nine separate tunable panels. This shell stood firm till water damage sadly took it down.
Now, let’s head on to the year 1929, which involves the work of none other than the Allied Architects again. Yet, this time, they put in incredible efforts to fix their past mistakes. The individuals that designed the said shell were Elliot, Bowen, and Waltz.
They started with a metal frame that was covered entirely with a transit skin to perfect all acoustic aspects. This shell weighed 55 tons and was situated on rails for movability. As for the visual element, it was designed with clear, sharp, white curves that exceptionally fit the theme of the Hollywood Bowl. The whole look was rather futuristic.
Later on, the Hollywood Bowl had the makeover of its life in the years 2003-2004. Still, before we dissect that era, we must mention that no matter how great the shells and sound system are, the trials of time are bound to bring them down.
In the year 1970, the sound quality was deteriorating as the inner shells started to fall apart. Hence, in the 1980s, the cardboard integrated inside of the shell was removed and replaced by fiberglass, making the shells act as if they were brand new again.
Although the new shells were a much better choice in regards to acoustics, they needed incredible power to operate properly and for the sound to reach everyone attending the performance.
Now back to 2003-2004 revamp. That’s where the shell was replaced with a new one that offered top-notch acoustics without compromising the visual aspect and ambiance of the Hollywood Bowl.
Bowl Walk / Hollywood Bowl Museum
The Hollywood Bowl isn’t just about providing its viewers with fresh performances; it’s also all about honoring the past and all of the fantastic shows that have graced its stage.
Subsequently, you can choose to enjoy tours, whether self-guided or with a guide inside of the Hollywood Bowl Museum and the Bowl Walk. The amazing bit is that all of this is entirely free of charge.
What will you see inside of the Hollywood Bowl museum? The answer is a lot. Exhibits and souvenirs from shows from all over the world, such as Beatles at the Bowl, Summer Nights, Jazz at the Bowl, and Postcards from the Bowl.
That is in addition to pieces of the theater itself showcasing its history and the evolution of its construction, such as newspaper clippings, ancient sound equipment, photographs, and even some live audio and video recordings.
Furthermore, you can move on to the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame, which features its honored performers and artists who had a significant part in the rise of the Hollywood Bowl. These names include but aren’t limited to Garth Brooks, Brian Wilson, Sarah Chang, George Harrison, and of course, the one and only Frank Sinatra.
On the other hand, The Hollywood Bowl wants to do all that is possible for the progression of its community. Consequently, it offers an educational program based on volunteer work known as Music Mobile. This program offers musical instrument lessons to students, also completely free of charge.
As we all know, the Hollywood Bowl is closed till the beginning of July, when shows will restart again. So, the Hollywood Bowl Museum is also closed, but you can enjoy yourself at the Bowl Walk, which features ten historical exhibits from the history of the Hollywood Bowl.
Hollywood Bowl Orchestra
Any grand stage must ensure the diversity of its output, and for the Hollywood Bowl, the orchestra was one of its main pillars, and it still is to this very day.
In 1925, the very first orchestra performance, the Bowl Orchestra, took place on the stage of the Hollywood Bowl. Later on, in 1928, the Hollywood Bowl orchestra didn’t just perform, but they had the very first live recording as well.
They were followed by the Hollywood Bowl Symphony orchestra led by Leopold Stokowski from 1945 to 1946. Not only did they record their performances, but some of these performances found their way to the public through Capitol Records Label in the 1950s and the 1960s.
The thing about the Hollywood Bowl orchestra is that they didn’t limit themselves to classical music; quite the opposite, to be honest. They’ve performed under the tutelage of numerous conductors who all managed to put their own touch on the performances according to their backgrounds.
Plus, of course, they performed behind many artists who sang all genres with stunning talent. For instance, Andrea Bocelli and Alexander Frey showcased the orchestra’s abilities in terms of classical music.
On the other hand, the Moody Blues and the Royal Crown Revue have shown the powers of the Hollywood Bowl orchestra in terms of pop and rock music. As for country music, the orchestra performed behind Lynn Redgrave and Kirk Douglas in a breathtaking manner.
The performers that we’ve just mentioned represent only 2% of the artists that have enjoyed the Hollywood Bowl orchestra supporting them, and the more you search, the more you’ll know.
At the end of the day, the Hollywood Bowl evolution genuinely represents the progression of the music industry as a whole. Moreover, the place that this stunning amphitheater has reserved for itself will always remain the same as it’ll forever be one of the pioneers of music with all its shapes, colors, and genres.
As we’ve mentioned before, some of the most outstanding performers, such as Frank Sinatra, have graced the Hollywood Bowl stage more than once and entertained our parents and grandparents. Now we’ve got Coldplay, Christina Aguilera, and so many more of our generation’s artists hitting the very same stage to showcase their art.
Lastly, there are so many activities that can be done in the Hollywood Bowl. You can go to the Bowl Museum, the Bowl Walk, the Culinary Program, the Educational Program, have a tour, or even a picnic with your loved ones.